Hearts 1-4 Celtic: Kyogo Furuhashi nets in eight successive game against hosts as Scottish Premiership leaders claim comfortable win to restore seven-point lead over Rangers
- Matt O’Riley opened the scoring and Daizen Maeda doubled Celtic’s advantage
- Kyogo Furuhashi added a third before Lawrence Shankland gave Hearts a lifeline
- Celtic regained their three-goal advantage thanks to a fierce Tomoki Iwata strike
If only stopping Celtic when they are in this kind of mood was as simple as restricting the number of their supporters in attendance.
Whether backed by the entirety of the Roseburn Stand, as was once the case, or just the 576 fans who occupied a small sliver at that structure on Sunday, there’s almost an inevitability about the outcome when Brendan Rodgers’ players match his exacting standards.
This was a victory every bit as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. At the very ground where the Northern Irishman sealed his first title as Celtic manager in his first spell, this felt like a hugely significant day in his quest to ensure his second spell begins in exactly the same manner.
Despite many of his players being scattered all round the world over the past fortnight, there was not a hint of ring rust about the champions in their first run out after the international break.
They were deservedly two goals to the good at the breakthrough Matt O’Riley and Daizen Maeda with Kyogo Furuhashi confirming the win by claiming his eighth goal in as many games against Hearts early in the second half.
Celtic midfielder Matt O’Riley opened the scoring in the fourth minute on Sunday
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Afforded the earlier luxury of Reo Hatate erring from the penalty spot, the visitors were briefly concerned when Lawrence Shankland pulled a goal back. But Tomoki Iwata ensured Hearts’ hopes of an unlikely comeback were short-lived by netting his first goal in Celtic colours nine minutes from time.
Still seven points clear at the top of the Premiership, with a slip-up at home to St Johnstone the only blip to date, Celtic now appear to have fully engaged top gear.
Ominously for the chasing pack, the manager feels no limits should be put on how good his side may yet become.
A controversial appointment in the eyes of some following his abrupt exit to Leicester City in 2019, Rodgers’ name was chanted by the pocket of visiting supporters at full-time. Nothing in football, it seems, heals the wounds quite like positive results.
Hearts might rue the day that they emphatically ended Rodgers’ 69 game unbeaten run as Celtic manager in December 2017.
Since that date, they have won just two of the 22 encounters against the Parkhead men. On days such as these, the prospect of bloodying their nose again feels ever more distant.
As impressive as Celtic were here, they were helped in no small part by a home side that was miles off the pace.
Daizen Maeda doubled Celtic’s advantage with a close-range finish in the 23rd minute
Insipid and devoid of any semblance of belief, their resistance lasted only four minutes.
Dropping onto the ball on the left, Luis Palma was afforded far too much time to float a ball over the home defence.
On the same page as the Honduran, O’Riley ghosted away from Calem Nieuwenhof. Taking the ball first time on the volley as it dropped out of the dazzling sunshine, he made the left-foot finish appear far simpler than it was.
The midfielder can just do no wrong at the moment. Player of the month and called up to the full Denmark squad, his sixth goal of the season is already two better than his sum total for the last campaign.
Hearts’ response was negligible. Alex Lowry did manage to feed Alex Cochrane but a decent cross from the left found no takers. Kenneth Vargas tried his luck from an angle. Joe Hart watched it all the way.
Celtic were in complete control of the game. Only a smart save by Zander Clark prevented Daizen Maeda from giving the scoreline a more accurate sheen but the second goal was only a matter of time.
Again, Hearts were entitled to point fingers – in particular at the figure of Nieuwenhof.
A loose pass by the Australian led to the turnover of possession which resulted in Clark’s net bulging for the second time on 23 minutes.
Having worked a throw-in, O’Riley’s pass allowed Hatate to make for the byline. The midfielder’s cross evaded a ruck of bodies in the six-yard box but not Maeda. His second goal of the season, from no more than a yard, was confirmed after a VAR check.
Kyogo Furuhashi continued his scoring streak with eighth goal in eight games against Hearts
You find out a lot about your players in such adverse circumstances. And to a man, Naismith’s Hearts already looked like they had accepted defeat.
The fact that every player in maroon who began the game re-started it was nothing short of astonishing.
The result might well have been put beyond all doubt within two minutes of the resumption. Just 12 seconds in, Cochrane’s clumsiness in the tackle sent Furuhashi sliding to the deck. Referee Nick Walsh’s initial view of a penalty was backed up by VAR.
After the inevitable delay, Hatate sent Clark the wrong way from 12 yards only to strike the upright. But the reprieve lasted all of four minutes.
A neat combination between Hatate and Palma saw the latter ease away from Toby Sibbick down the left.
The cross was helped on by O’Riley and fell perfectly for the unmarked Furuhashi. A 60th Celtic goal in 95 appearances was confirmed with a thumping finish high into the net.
Hatate tried to make amends for his penalty miss with a stinging drive that flew narrowly wide. Had that gone in, you suspect the final score could have been pretty much anything.
Lawrence Shankland scored his first goal since August to grab a lifeline for Hearts
Celtic regained their three-goal advantage thanks to a fierce Tomoki Iwata strike
As it was, Hearts managed to pull one back. A misplaced pass by Maeda on the edge of his own box gifted possession to Shankland. An eight-game goal drought was ended by a strike from the edge of the box which beat Hart and went in off the post.
The Hearts skipper had another half chance to make a grandstand finish with 12 minutes remaining but he was falling as he tried his luck from 15 yards and the ball sailed harmlessly over.
The issue was finally settled nine minutes from time. Hyeon-ghu Oh had a couple of quick-fire efforts repelled. The second rebound ball sat up perfectly for Iwata who crashed the ball home via the underside of the bar.
Those Hearts supporters who remained for the full-time whistle left the players and their manager in no doubt as to what they thought of the performance. By contrast, the small visiting section was a scene of jubilation.
Hearts: Clark, Sibbick, Kent, Rowles, Cochrane, Nieuwenhof (Baningime 58), Devlin (Grant 82), Forrest, Shankland, Lowry (Oda 58), Vargas (Boyce 73).
Subs Not Used: Haring, McGovern, Halliday, Denholm, Offiah.
Booked: Vargas, Sibbick.
Goals: Shankland 65.
Celtic: Hart, Alistair Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Scales, Taylor, O’Riley, McGregor (Bernardo 82), Hatate (Iwata 66), Maeda (Yang 72), Furuhashi (Oh 72), Palma (Forrest 65).
Subs Not Used: Phillips, Turnbull, Bain, Ralston.
Goals: O’Riley 4, Maeda 23, Furuhashi 51, Iwata 81.
Ref: Nick Walsh (Scotland).
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